The Topkapi Secret

( 5 )


On display within the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul lies the Topkapi Codex—an ancient manuscript of the Koran involved in the murder that split Shiite from Sunni. What’s the truth about the Topkapi Codex? Is there blood on it? Are its contents the same as the modern Koran’s? No one knows because the Topkapi Codex is off limits to research. Mohammed Atareek is obsessed with getting his hands on this mysterious manuscript. His research has convinced him that the Koran has been changed many times, and the text ...
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On display within the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul lies the Topkapi Codex—an ancient manuscript of the Koran involved in the murder that split Shiite from Sunni. What’s the truth about the Topkapi Codex? Is there blood on it? Are its contents the same as the modern Koran’s? No one knows because the Topkapi Codex is off limits to research. Mohammed Atareek is obsessed with getting his hands on this mysterious manuscript. His research has convinced him that the Koran has been changed many times, and the text of the famous codex could prove it. But other scholars are turning up dead. Did they share his conviction? Should he expose himself to their risk?

Angela, a UC Berkeley English professor, married money and kept it; but lost the marriage, most of her family, and a friend under traumatic circumstances. On top of that, she makes a career move that puts her in the Middle East and in Mohammed’s path. His overconfident, witty, and impulsive personality is both puzzling and refreshing to Angela. But when Mohammed tries to engage her in his quest, he finds she has an agenda of her own. Cat and mouse games, heated discussions, and sparks of romance inevitably ensue.

Based on solid historical research, this exciting debut novel features a page-turning plot, a startling conclusion, and many eye-opening facts about the origins of the Koran.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kelhawk's debut thriller fails to do justice to its intriguing premise--that the text of the Topkapi Codex, a Koran manuscript kept in Istanbul's legendary Topkapi museum, may vary significantly from that of the modern Koran. The codex serves largely as a McGuffin, taking a backseat to the adventures and misadventures of the two dull leads. Angela Hall, an English lit professor at Berkeley, ends up in Ramallah, on the West Bank, where she encounters Mohammed Atareek, who's determined to get access to the codex, despite the museum's denial of his requests. Kelhawk, the pseudonym of an expert on Islam, doesn't always smoothly integrate factual information into the narrative. The cartoonish showdown with the bad guys in a tannery undercuts any efforts to take the codex plot line seriously. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Meticulously researched, this richly textured debut novel will capture your imagination from the beginning, pull you into the intrigue and adventure and never let go. An extensive cast of characters complements the story’s intricate details, including origins of the Koran."
—RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 stars ("FANTASTIC—keeper")

"In The Topkapi Secret, Terry Kelhawk gives us the gift of a gripping adventure with electric tension crackling from almost every page. However, it also shines a laser beam of clarity onto the ancient religions and rituals, reinforced by traditional texts that fuel the furies of fanatics and fiends. Watch as Kelhawk shows destiny unfolding and history being shaped."
—Rabbi Daniel Lapin, co-chair of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians

"The Topkapi Secret is an exciting and captivating novel that takes the reader on a thrilling ride through mystery and intrigue set in multiple cities across the Middle East. This is a book that you will be hard-pressed to put down."
—Michael Levine, renowned Hollywood publicist and bestselling author

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616142131
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Pages: 425
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Kelhawk is an award-winning writer, speaker, and teacher. She holds a doctorate degree and has considerable personal and professional experience with the Middle East and Islam.
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First Chapter

The Topkapi Secret

A Novel
By Terry Kelhawk

Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2010 Terry Kelhawk
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61614-213-1

Chapter One


"I can't see!" Angela cried out.

Angela Hall had never been in a sandstorm. Like most people, she relegated such phenomena to the Sahara Desert. She could not even imagine a sandstorm in Marrakech. So she was caught by surprise when the bright blue Moroccan skies clouded with sand.

Angela's contact lenses were grinding the sand into her eyes, and it hurt. Sand was everywhere. It was seeping into the folds of her clothing and chafing her skin. True dermabrasion. Her face had never felt anything like this before.

Breathing was difficult. Against her will, her eyelids kept pressing down against the onslaught of the sand. Angela reached for Fatima's arm, feeling frustrated, dependent; however, she had no choice but to rely on another. At that moment Fatima stepped into the street to flag a taxi. Angela grabbed at air. Blinking, she stumbled and nearly fell.

Once the taxi came into view, Fatima could see that it was occupied. It sped by, heedless of their plight.

Taxis disappear like mirages when a sandstorm hits Marrakech. The lucky and the experienced grab one quickly or get off the streets. Fatima was experienced. But neither woman was lucky that day. By the time the sand had come, they were poorly situated for taxi grabbing.

A few minutes earlier, before the storm hit, they had ambled peacefully along, discussing the gardens of Marrakech.

"Menara's nice, but I prefer La Majorelle," Angela had said. "It has a lush, secluded feeling, with its paths winding through palms and bougainvilleas."

"But Menara's grander," replied Fatima. "It reminds me of a small Taj Mahal, the way the pavilion reflects in the water."

"And the way the sultans tossed their concubines into it every morning?" Angela asked, referring to the notorious practice of the sultans of Marrakech. "Did you ever wonder if they could swim?"

Fatima, a defender of women's rights, ignored this, saying, "I prefer it today, with families picnicking under olive trees, and happy children playing."

Like most Arabs, Fatima struggled in distinguishing her p and b sounds in English. But her accent was mellifluous, for she was of the educated Moroccan elite who speak French better than Arabic.

Fatima nudged Angela's elbow and challenged her in return. "And besides, who knows what mischief La Majorelle has seen-it's been owned by artists!"

"Good point. But La Majorelle definitely wins for color-cobalt blue walls and pots-like the color of the Moroccan sky," Angela said, palm up in demonstration.

Fatima looked up. "At this moment, the sky looks more gray than blue."

When they had arrived at Menara Park, the weather had been fine. The skies were still clear when they left, so Angela and Fatima proceeded on foot to the open-air marketplace of Jemaa al-Fna.

But the weather rapidly changed.

"For some reason I will feel safer when we are inside the ramparts of the city," Fatima said. She knew what could happen when the clouds and wind met in this way.

Sand started kicking up around them. Within a few minutes, it went from nuisance to menace.

They had gone two-thirds of the way along the avenue and were approaching the twelfth-century walls-the oldest in Morocco.

A second taxi passed, but when they flagged it down, someone else pushed in first.

Sand brings out the grit in people.

"It's OK," Fatima spoke over the wind, directly into Angela's ear. Then she pulled her hijab over her nose and mouth. "Just hold on to me. We're getting close to the wall. We can go through it at Bab el-jedid. That is near La Mamounia, and there are always taxis at that hotel. If not, we can go inside for tea and wait."

Angela could see little through her tearing eyes, just a blur where her feet used to be. Any encouragement was welcome.

They had visited the gardens of La Mamounia yesterday. That legendary spot now loomed as paradise itself: Arabic art deco architecture; Winston Churchill painting in the gardens. She wasn't sure which sounded better-a taxi to her room in fifteen minutes or tea in paradise immediately.

Unfortunately, she was not to have either. At least not in the time or context of her choosing.

She bent over and clung to Fatima's jelaba as if she were a little child.


Excerpted from The Topkapi Secret by Terry Kelhawk Copyright © 2010 by Terry Kelhawk. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The story line is incredible

    Berkeley University English Literature Professor Angela Hall is in Ramallah on the West Bank doing research when she meets Mohammed Atareek. He provides her a fascinating theory on the Koran; in which he believes that the modern day version is vastly different from what was written down centuries ago. He has tried to obtain permission to visit the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul to access the Topkapi Codex, but has been denied approval.

    Angela is intrigued by Mohammed's premise. Although he warns her of the danger as his colleagues are being hunted and killed, they agree to work together to obtain access to the Topkapi Codex. The American and the Palestinian head to Beirut as they make the dangerous trek across the Middle East towards Turkey not knowing who to trust including each other.

    The underling premise of this exhilarating thriller is the debate over whether the modern Koran text is the original words that God spoke to Mohammed as the real allegedly seventh century Topkapi Codex had limited scholarly analysis. when the focus is on the Koran; when the plot turns to a typical thriller adventure, it loses some of its potency. Still readers will enjoy the Topkapi Secret wondering whether the Koran is the unchanged revelation from Allah or a false fable that like the other major religions use to keep the faithful adhering to the Word.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Horrible and poor prose

    The Topkapi Secret is about an American professor and a Middle Eastern researcher who sets out to obtain the Topkapi Codex, a manuscript that would prove that the modern-day Koran is different from its original texts. Angela Hall's original aim in Turkey was to carry out research on women's issues in the region. Mohammed Atareek's aim was to prove that interpretations and changes made to the Koran were inaccurate. Terry Kelhawk weaved historical facts and the characters' life stories to produce an average historical-fiction novel. I found the plot engrossing but I thought that the language, grammar, and sentence construction used could be much, much better. When I read the first few chapters, I felt as if I was reading a writing by a 13-year old. Furthermore, descriptions used to connect sentences and portray the author's thoughts were barely there. I had hoped that this would only last in the first few chapters but I was left disappointed as it was not so. This book makes a worthwhile read for fans of Middle Eastern culture and history, thanks to the well-researched facts. But, if as a person who cannot tolerate poor storytelling and awkward-sounding sentences, I found it a time-waster and couldn't wait to move on to another book.

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  • Posted December 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Fiction

    This is truly a wonderful piece of fiction and as such should be read and savored. If we start entering in the merit of if the plot is for real or not, we will be traveling in dangerous waters and I am not a muslin and I have no rights to put any question marks on their faith. When I read "The DaVince Code", I just assumed it to be a work of fiction and nothing more than that. I never considered it to be a challenge to my faith. I want to believe that the potential readers of this book are adult enough to realize that this book should be read as a work of fiction and nothing beyond that. If you do that, you will be able to enjoy a magnificent novel. The book is split into very small chapters, that is very convenient if you need to stop reading in a short notice. Also if it ever make into Hollywood, it is a very nice scene breaker, ready to go to the screens.

    This book contains all ingredients to become a quick bestseller: intrigue, love, murder, mystery, and the author does a magnificent job describing the characters and the places in a way that make us participate and cheer for our heroes on every turn of the pages. And the picture in the cover page could not be better. Very well chosen!

    So, I recommend this book to a permanent library of any lover of mystery and fast pace, action story.

    This book was written by Terry Kelhawk and it was published in 2010 by Prometheus Books and Glass Road Public Relations through Rebeca Seitz was kind enough to provide me a copy for reviewing. Thanks, Mrs. Terry Kelhawk, for such a nice novel!

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  • Posted December 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    What they learn could change the world and their lives!

    Ever been drawn into a story that takes you on an international adventure while depositing nuggets of wisdom and glimpses of the world along the way? Terry Kelhawk's, The Topkapi Secret, romantic story of an American professor and a Middle Eastern researcher on the run from religious zealots does just that.

    When professor Angela Hall's Californian life crumbles, she packs a suitcase and heads to Turkey with a mission of completing her long-delayed research of women's issues in the region. But when her path crosses the passionate, fervent Mohammed Atareek, sparks all directions.

    Mohammed is a researcher as well - of the Koran and changes made to it. He desperately seeks interaction with the Topkapi Codex, an ancient manuscript of the Koran on display at Topkapi Palace Museum in Instanbul, but the Codex is off-limits. As other Koranic scholars echo the cry of truth regarding the changes to the Koran, the body count rises.

    My Review:

    Why is it that whenever Mohammed Atareek seeks to view and research the Topkapi Codex, all of his requests, seem to come back denied. Is there something that the head of the Topkapi Palace Museum is afraid to let him see? The Topkapi Codex is one of the earliest Korans and claim to be "the" Koran that Caliph Uthman was reading when he died, and is now stained with his blood. Mohammed has been trying to unravel which version of the Koran had Uthman been reading - and stained with his blood. The Topkapi Codex as the Turks have claimed, or the Samarkand Codex as the Uzbekis claimed? Perhaps the whole story was nothing more than a legend fabricated by the Sunnis to smear the Shiites. Such partisan hadiths, or traditions, had been known to exist.

    If Mohammed's research leads him to the truth he believes that the Koran hides an extraordinary secret - a truth that would turn the Muslim world upside down.

    Angela Hall returns from a tragic trip from the Middle East after losing a dear friend in a sandstorm accident. When she gets home, she is faced with more tragic news when she learns that her mother in law is dead but has left her a great inheritance. This does not make her husband at all happy who is left with little more than nothing unless he gets therapy to deal with his personal issues. He leaves Angela with divorce papers. With nothing left to lose, Angela takes a new job to research women's issues, and take over a teaching position being vacated. There is no greater place to do that, than back in the Middle East.

    I have received the Topkapi Secret by Terry Kelhawk, compliments of Glass Road Public Relations for my honest review. Aside from a rough start through the first few chapters due to establishing the characters and locations, the book is really amazing, page turning, and a thrill ride to the end. I would easily rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars!

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  • Posted December 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Koran

    When Professor Angela Hall's life crumbles in California she take off to Ramallah on the West Bank and starts to do research on women's issues in this area. She meets Mohammed Atareek and he provides her a with a theory on the Koran; in which he believes that the modern day version is different from what was written down centuries ago. He has tried to obtain permission to visit the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul to access the Topkapi Codex, but has been denied approval. He can not understand why they will not let him do this research. Exploring a fourteen hundred year old secret of the Koran that the two of them seek, the Topkapi Codex, an early version of the Koran is kept off limits within the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. As other Koranic scholars start finding out more about it, there are more people killed.

    This novel is a based on a real research and Terry Kelhawk seems to have done a lot of research to be able to write this novel.

    To me I had a hard time following it as I have no knowledge of the Koren as I only believe in God Holy Word the Bible. But it is a good read if you want to learn more about this part of the world and about the Koran.

    This book was sent to me for review by Rebeca from Glass Roads Public Relations.

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